Fresh from his recent collaboration with Old Man Luedecke, the bluegrass maestro Tim O’Brien returns with his own new solo album ‘Pompadour’, one which he describes as a break-up record that journeys from implosion to liberation following his eventual divorce after four years separation. Not that that would immediately seem obvious from the opening title track, a jazzy, playful number about waking up with an unlikely bed-head (“Christopher Walken run amok with the styling gel”) complete with trumpet, marimba and scat vocalising, though closer inspection reveals it’s probably about how the unexpected can catch you out.
It’s not the only atypical track on the album, assuming, that is, that the prospect of O’Brien recording a sparse, banjo-driven bluegrass version of James Brown’s Get Up Offa That Thing isn’t something you’d take for granted. Reassuringly for the faint-hearted, there’s also an arrangement of the traditional fiddle-led instrumental Snake Basket, a bass, cello and mandolin field blues take on Michael Hurley’s Ditty Boy Twang, the Civil War tenting ground feel of Dan Reeder’s folk blues The Tulips On The Table and Go Down To The Water, a Woody Guthrie lyric set to a shanty tune by Billy Bragg.
Elsewhere, Dan Dugmore lends steel guitar to the raw Eaglesesque alt-country Whatever Happened To Me while a more old school honky tonk country mood invests I Gotta Move’s jaunty account of having to put your home up for sale and, co-penned with Gary Nicholson, Gimme Little Somethin’ Take Her Off My Mind is choogling, sax-punched, piano boogie rockabilly about needing something stronger than whiskey or wine to cure heartache.
However, while the penultimate acoustic country-waltzing track might declare I’m A Mess For You (and that’ll be Dennis Crouch on bass), he bids farewell in a more upbeat, sunny mood, skipping through an acceptance of life’s stream in the company of breezy fiddle on the Sarah Jarosz co-written The Water Is Wise. As with the liner photos that show O’Brien having his hair cut and beard razored off, so the greater emphasis on electric guitar and mandolin indicates a new approach. It’ll be interesting to see if the music remains as metaphorically clean-shaven come the next album.
Review by: Mike Davies
Pompadour is released 16th January 2016.
Pre-Order via Amazon here.
Tim will be touring the album in the UK in January and February including Glasgow’s Celtic Connections (22, 23 Jan) and Nell’s Jazz & Blues Club in London, (2 Feb). Full dates below:
UK Dates: January / February 2016
Fri 22 Jan. – GLASGOW, St Andrews In The Square – Celtic Connections
Sat 23 Jan. – GLASGOW, Strathclyde Suite – Celtic Connections
Fri 29 Jan. – SALTAIR, The Live Room @ Caroline Social Club
Sat 30 Jan. – LEEK, Foxlowe Arts Centre
Sun 31 Jan. – TOPSHAM, Topsham Folk Club
Mon 01 Feb. – WELLINGTON, Beambridge Inn
Tue 02 Feb. – LONDON, Nells Jazz & Blues Club
Wed 03 Feb. – SHEFFIELD, The Greystones
Fri 05 Feb. – STOUD, The Old Convent
Sat 06 Feb. – GATESHEAD, The Sage
Sun 07 Feb. – BURY, The Met